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MoonDogs advance to Summer Collegiate World Series

Mankato punched their return ticket to the Summer Collegiate World Series, making their third appearance in the last four years with a 8-5 win over Willmar in a win-or-go-home Game 3. The MoonDogs struck for four runs in the third and fended off a late Stingers rally to eliminate the first-half division champions.

An early unearned run put Mankato up 1-0, and they didn't look back. They struck for four runs against Willmar starter Kurt Yinger (Portland) in the third as four different hitters recorded RBIs. Levi Scott (UT-Arlington) drove in a run with a RBI double, and three different MoonDogs recorded RBI singles- Eric Schneck-Joblinske (Kirkwood CC), Craig Lepre (Albany) and Patrick Massoni (Chabot CC).

Starter Mitchell Traver (TCU) picked up the win for Mankato, as he went 5.2 innings and allowed three runs on just four hits while striking out three and not issuing a walk. 

After chasing Yinger through just four innings, Tanner Rockwell (Arkansas Little Rock) slugged a two-run home run off of reliever Andrew Towns (Walters St), an All-Star in the regular season as a starter for the Stingers. Rockwell took a 3-1 pitch and put it out to lengthen the MoonDogs lead to 7-0.

Willmar was resilient, however, as they cut into the lead with back-to-back multi-run innings. Frankie Rios (Southern California) drove in a run with a RBI groundout, Nick Rivera (FGCU) added a run-scoring single while speedster Sean Beesley (Illinois St) stole home for the Stingers first run. 

After scoring three runs in the sixth, Beesley drove in another run with a single and Brian Pruett (FGCU) tacked on a RBI double. However, Mankato scored a run apiece in both the seventh and eighth to pull away late. Lepre hit a RBI double and a costly error brought home another run to secure the win.

Tuesday's pitcher of the night, Mankato closer Tyler Mark (Cal St Dominguez) came in with two outs in the eighth and stranded a runner at third, and then worked around a leadoff single and stolen base in the ninth to close it out with a game-ending strikeout. 

The MoonDogs racked up 16 hits to advance to their third Summer Collegiate World Series as they look for their first championship. They'll face off against the Southern Division champion Lakeshore Chinooks, who became just one of three teams in Northwoods League history to win 50 games in the regular season. Lakeshore leads the season series, 4-0, as they swept both series with the MoonDogs. 

Thursday's Schedule:

Game 1 of the Summer Collegiate World Series:
Southern Division champion Lakeshore at Northern Division champion Mankato, 7:05 p.m